Sexpert Touch: Sex Experts Shape the Sexual Health Conversation
It doesn’t take a brain surgeon or rocket scientist to know what a “sexpert” is. As the name literally screams out, they’re experts on sex. Advisors. Consultants. Educators. And, in some cases, therapists. They help people who have issues in the bedroom: everything from a woman unable to achieve orgasm, to a man who has erectile difficulties—and scores of matters in-between.
For most of us,” says Melissa White, a ‘safer-sex consultant,’ and CEO of LuckyBloke.com (a site dedicated to dispelling negative myths about the pleasure to be found through condom use), “official sex education was mediocre or simply non-existent. More often than not, what is learned ‘back in high school’ arrives via friends or porn. Fast forward 20 (or so) years and the situation hasn’t really improved.
“As many teens go on to become sexually misinformed adults, they’re likely to experience sex ranging from less-than-satisfactory to hazardous-to-their-health, often simply for lack of awareness about how to make better choices to improve their sex life. The lack of reliable and accurate sex-ed has created a generation of people who have a lot of questions when it comes to creating a sex life that’s deeply satisfying. Many sexperts as well as sex educators have stepped up to fill this lack.”
And people’s sexual problems can, indeed, be complicated — or as simple as a couple wanting to add a little umphhh! to their sex life, with the basic answer being better dialogue.
“When a couple comes to me interested in ‘spicing their sex life up’,” notes sex educator and sex advice columnist, Lola Bastinado (hedoonline.com), “it isn’t necessarily that they want to use ‘50 Shades of Grey’ as a play-by-play book. Nine times out of 10 it’s about them simply communicating with one another and exploring. As a sexpert, it’s an amazing feeling being able to listen and aid/facilitate that need.”
In a nutshell, the presence today of sexperts is unavoidable. They’re on TV, the radio, scattered all over the internet (via news sites, their own websites, adult sites), on DVDs where they’re giving sexual advice, as well as frequently appearing in magazines and newspapers. In turn, their effect on the current sex industry is definite, especially in the area of sex toys or aids.
Consequently, we spoke with a number of these experts to learn more about the impact they have on us: from the problems they encounter and the cures they recommend; to their accessibility for your average Joe/Jane; and, finally, the potency they can have in terms of boosting sales of adult toys and novelties.
Do Your Homework
First off, however, when seeking out the assistance of a sexpert, one has to do his or her research. Therapists like Dr. Tamara Rose Griffin and Dr. Robert Berend note that doing your homework in terms of looking into the professional background of a sexpert is mandatory before seeking the latter’s advice.
“A Sexpert,” says Griffin (author of L.I.F.E., Live Inspired! Feel Empowered!),” is a broad term that is used to define someone who has knowledge or provide advice about sexuality. A person who calls themselves a ‘sexpert’ may or may not have the academic or professional training in human sexuality, mental health therapy, psychology, marriage and family therapy, and/or medicine. In addition, they may not be qualified to treat sexual dysfunction, co-occurring issues such as relationship challenges, mental health issues, and/or substance abuse which may sometimes accompany a sexual concern.
“In turn, make sure that the sexpert from whom you’re seeking information is, indeed, qualified to provide information, education, support, and/or treatment. A clinical sexologist and/or sex therapist is a professional that has academic preparation, extensive knowledge, experience and training in the field of human sexuality.”
Dr. Robert Berend—an LA-based sexologist, therapist, and educator who gives lectures to audiences the world over through his traveling series Ask the Sexologist—fully agrees with Dr. Rose Griffin.
“My background,” says Berend, “was pre-med/physiology at Berkeley, so I know science and medicine, as opposed to a lot of people who are giving advice that don’t really have any background in science, medicine, or health — but they’re still giving advice! Yes, I’m a sex educator and a sexologist… But you and your dog can be sexologists, because it’s not a regulated field. There’s no licensing for being a sexologist. No one in the U.S. is handing out a state license degree saying, ‘You’re a sexpert.’ But if you do say, ‘I’m a lawyer,’ or ‘I’m an accountant,’ then you need to be certified in those specific fields. The same applies to sex therapy. If someone needs a therapist, they need to go to a licensed therapist.
Problems And Solutions
And speaking of therapy and/or advice, the patient/client issues with which sexperts (some of whom are, indeed, also therapists) deal are, indeed, numerous.
Such problems are related to sexual arousal, orgasm, painful sex, past trauma, sexual identity, orientation and gender concerns, body image, communication breakdowns around sex, and erectile or ejaculation difficulties.
Sex and relationship therapist Dr. Shannon Chavez (DrShannonChavez.com) notes that the first step when dealing with any kind of sexual concern is to rule out a medical condition.
“I recommend that my clients see a physician if necessary,” says Chavez, “to check everything from hormones to other medical conditions that can impact sexual functioning.”
Once medical issues are ruled out, Chavez states that a big part of her therapy involves intimacy skill building.
“It can involve everything from learning how to dialogue around sexual issues, to using pleasure devices to enhance passion and sexual intimacy.”
Griffin says that a qualified and experienced sexpert can absolutely help the client identify and address the “root” causing their dysfunction via a host of different avenues.
“A typical session,” says Griffin, “may include discussions, advanced sex education, relaxation techniques, therapeutic dialogue, role play, and teaching of techniques and skills. Therapy sessions can be done individually or with a partner. Some concerns can be addressed quickly, in just a few sessions. More deep-seated concerns, however, may require more sessions and intensive treatment.”
A number 1 question which women typically ask sex educator Ducky Doolittle (author of Sex With the Lights On: 200 Illuminating Sex Questions Answered, as well as founder of the Academy of Sex Education) is, “How can I achieve orgasm from penetration alone?”
“I love helping women have bigger, more badass orgasms,” says Doolittle, “so I talk with them about their body and how they currently drive orgasms. And if in a sex shop, I’ll crawl the walls with them, pointing out lots of products that might help them expand their orgasmic response. It really is my dream job!”
Sex educator and fetish-video director Kelsey Obsession (KelseyObsession.net) says that two frequent concerns she observes among men and women are “How does anal sex work” and “How can I do this at home with my girlfriend?”
“I aim to help bridge the gap between porn and ‘real life,’” says Kelsey, “helping people explore their sexuality, to share their desires with their partners and ultimately deepen their intimate connection.”
Sex and intimacy coach Xanet Pailet (powerofpleasure.com) says that she consistently sees women who are sexually shut down, having difficulty achieving orgasm, and experiencing painful sex, most often due to a history of sexual abuse; while she just as often sees men who feel disempowered and have issues with early ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, and intimacy, with Xanet noting that it can all sometimes be related to “a society which no longer gives men permission to express their sexual desires with women.”
“I work with women and help them heal the wounds they’re experiencing from body shame, to trauma and abuse,” Pailet says. “We work on techniques to keep women in their bodies during sex, rather than in their heads, through breath, sound, and movement. Through hands-on bodywork and orgasm coaching, I help women re-wire the neuronal pleasure pathways in their body and start to associate sex with pleasure rather than pain, fear, or shame.
“And my work with men is to teach them how to also connect with their own sexual energy. We do this through intense breath work, movement, and active exercises that moves sexual energy around their body. I show men how to simultaneously be at both a high state of arousal and high state of relaxation, and to learn how to control ejaculation so that they can experience multiple orgasms. I become a man’s intimacy practice partner, and they learn what it feels like to open themselves up to emotional intimacy with a woman.”
Are Sexperts For Everyman… And Everywoman?
But are sexperts only for the elite crowd? Only for those who can afford them? Do average folk have access to their advice?—or is the magic simply out of their grasp?
Therapist and author Emily Morse (SexWithEmily.com) — known for her famous “Sex with Emily” podcast; the nationally syndicated radio show “Loveline”; and official spokesperson for January’s Sexual Health Expo (SHE) 2015 — points out that she does everything in her power to make her valued advice accessible to as many people as possible.
“I help by answering questions during my radio show and podcast,” Morse points out, “during Twitter chats, on my blog, in my columns or on YouTube and Facebook. I use all social media and tools I have to help people get the answers they need.”
Sex educator Lola Bastinado agrees that the Internet levels the playing field for the average consumer, with men and women living in the most remote places in the world now having the ability to get information and products with the simple click of a mouse.”
“Technology has made sexperts widely available, globally,” Bastinado relates. “When one finds a trusted open forum and the Sexpert they’re seeking, there are usually avenues such as emails or radio call-ins allowing people the ability to remain ‘anonymous’, in turn taking the ‘shame’ out of ‘not knowing’. The Internet has helped educate many people who would otherwise feel uncomfortable seeking informational books, videos, or adult novelties in a brick and mortar store. Exploring one’s adult interests online and being able to privately purchase a multitude of adult products via the Internet has proven over the years to significantly increase retail sales of adult-related toys.”
Sex counselor, author of seven books (including The Loveologist Guide to 52 Weeks of Sizzling Sex) and founder of Loveology University (on-line love coaching for motivated students who’ll eventually become “certified Loveologiests”), Dr. Ava Cadell similarly notes that consumers interested in sex toys can easily, effortless lean towards the Web for a host of advice.
“When it comes to intimate products, people can feel intimidated or even just confused about the range of items available, not even knowing how to narrow down their search,” states Cadell. “Often consumers will turn to articles written by sexperts to get the right information. For example, any woman can Google ‘anal toys’ and order something online. But if you watch my video ‘Anal Sex For Women,’ you’ll learn that you should make sure the toy you order has a flared base so it doesn’t disappear up there! And then while you’re at it, you learn things you didn’t even know about, like the fact that you can reach your G-spot through anal penetration.
“Simply put, sexperts contribute the ‘how’ and ‘why’ to the pleasure product industry’s ‘what.’ It’s like buying a piece of fish at the market. You can just go home and throw it in the oven, and it will taste okay. But why do that when you can consult a gourmet chef—who will add lemon, herbs, butter, salt — and make it a meal to remember? That’s actually the exact reason I’ve started my new site Sexpert.com, which is a hub for sexy sex education and sex in the news! We’ve got the top certified sexologists all coming together to share their great advice, tips, and techniques with the world.”
Dr. Robert Berend (whose upcoming website, askthesexologist.com, will give easily accessible information to those with sex matters) points out that crucial sex knowledge should never be ruled out in a person’s life simply because they’re not part of the academic world.
“I’m a member of AASECT (The American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists), and if people knew about AASECT, which they don’t, they could go to the website and click on the part where it says, ‘Find a sex positive therapist in your neighborhood.’ But they haven’t heard of AASECT—until they read about it in this article.”
Toys Are Us?
Lastly, are sexperts actually helping to drive the sales of sex toys, tools, novelties, and accessories up? Does it really help to have a sexpert’s endorsement of, say, a brand of vibrator, dildo, and/or lube?
Pleasure coach Dr. Sadie Allison believes it assists enormously.
“People are looking for authenticity in their sexperts,” Allison says. “So a sexpert who’s knowledgeable, relatable, and authentic definitely has a stronghold to recommend sex toys and, in turn, drive sales. This is a huge benefit to sex-toy sales, as there are many sexperts who do a great job at this.”
Not only the author of such best-selling books as Toygasms! and Tickle Your Fancy, Dr. Sadie is also the founder and CEO of TickleKitty.com, a sex-toy boutique which, among other sundry erotic-related items, offers her very own line of water-based, female body-safe lubricants.
“Sexperts hugely support the sex-toy industry in so many more ways,” Allison adds. “Aside from sexperts endorsing toys and acting as brand ambassadors for sex-toy manufacturers, they’re in constant contact with consumers. As other examples, there are numerous sexuality workshops wherein sex toys are showcased as the focus or part of a presentation. Also, sexperts are reviewing, blogging and vlogging about toys daily and exposing them to the mass markets; getting more and more mainstream radio and TV media exposure — now more than ever — during which they promote sex toys; recommending sex toys to clients as relationship enhancement accessories, for intimacy exercises, as well as helping with sexual challenges.
“Additionally, sexperts have partnered with toy manufacturers to create their own line of branded sex toys, thus creating more reach and product options to consumers.”
Sex educator and coach Elle Chase (ElleChase.com) concurs that endorsements from sexperts and name recognition can only improve sales of sex toys.
“I believe that, like with anything else that’s marketed, expert opinion is something that consumers value highly. Take the Eroscillator for example. It’s a fantastic vibrator that costs around $200. That’s asking a lot of people: to spend a large chunk of their money on something they don’t consider essential. Stores carry it because it’s a great product. And they wouldn’t carry it if it didn’t sell — and it sells because it’s the only sexual health product that Dr. Ruth Westheimer endorses. Without that approval — and the marketing and media attention that Dr. Ruth’s presence and brand name brought with it — I think Eroscillator would have had a really hard time marketing themselves and inspiring stores to stock their unique product.”
Emily Morse notes a distinct connection between her discussion of sex products and sales of such.
“I would never recommend a product that I haven’t tried and heavily researched,” she clarifies. “For example, Good Vibrations sent me the Je Joue Mimi to test. I fell in love with it and couldn’t stop talking about how great it was for solo time and during intercourse. So I always feel confident about what I recommend. My audience knows this, and they trust my suggestions, and, therefore, all of the companies I’ve worked with have seen a direct increase in sales from the products I recommend, whether on my radio show, podcast, blog, or during a press interview. We can track these sales using codes, so we know there is a direct correlation between my show and their product.”
Dr. Patti Britton, who offers a huge online store at DrPattiBritton.com, believes it’s an absolute responsibility for professional sex educators to have up-to-date knowledge and, as Morse states, first-hand experience of the range of quality sex toys/lubes and other products that enhance the sexual-pleasure experience for individuals and couples.
“To that end,” notes Britton, “by having websites and even setting up a virtual or retail store for clients and trainees, we as sexperts promote the pleasure products industry with a focus on the enhancement of health and pleasure for all whom we serve.”
Lola Bastinado strongly believes that a product or company that shows a homogeneous working relationship with a noted sexpert, not only adds cachet to the particular product being endorsed, but it also helps establish fundamental brand awareness.
“It’s the same theory of Martha Stewart licensing her name to various lines of cookware and home goods,” Bastinado adds. “As a consumer, one is more likely to be drawn products donning her name or image. As Stewart is known for being an ‘expert’ in her industry, her ‘seal of approval’ must mean that particular product is of higher quality and meets her particular standards — minus, the jail time, courtrooms, and bad press, that is.”
Talk Is Not Cheap — It’s Essential
In conclusion, taking into account all of the problems, solutions, and products with which sexperts deal/offer/endorse, respectively, most sexual experts still believe that there’s nothing to replace talk, dialogue, and communication between individuals looking for good sex.
“Remember,” says Emily Morse, “there is no ‘normal’ when it comes to sex. Sure, there are destructive behaviors and addictions. But in most cases, if it turns you on, and you have healthy communication with your partner, you’re doing just fine.”
Dr. Robert Berend is in agreement with Morse.
“There are people out there who have sexual partners, yet they’re not telling that partner how nice it would be to have someone put their tongue in their butt. They’re not saying to that partner, “I want your tongue in my butt” or “I’d like a dildo in my butt.” So, as much as people talk about communication, they’re still not as good at it now as they will be in five years. And five is really just a random number. We have to keep practicing at communicating.
“If people could talk about what they like in bed with as much ease as someone asking, ‘How do you like your coffee? With cream, sugar, or not?’, the world would be a much happier place.”